Happy National Soup Month! Not to be outdone, let’s get with the program and make some 🙂
This is my version of French Onion Soup (right alongside the five billion other versions out there) and falls into the ‘happy accident’ category of cooking. I set out to make some pizzas with grilled onions as part of the topping. Ever the lazy cook, I threw about four huge onions into a cast iron Dutch oven and figured I was good to go – not so much. The onions tasted great, but so many were in the pan that they steamed themselves and turned into a mushy looking, unattractive concoction. I put them aside and sautéed more onions in a shallow layer, then got the crisp brown edges and the better looking outcome I was hoping for in the first place. Since I ended up with plenty of leftovers, I threw everything together in a pot, added broth, and ended up with a pretty darned good soup. So here you have the best of both worlds: a creamy, flavorful base of onions with enough caramelized brown bites to create a nice balance. We won’t forget the crispy bread and melted cheese because that would just be wrong. Let me show you how it happened…
As I mentioned earlier, this comes together in a couple of phases. Phase 1: Throw a bunch of sliced onions in a Dutch oven and let them sweat it out until they are cooked through. They will be soft, mellow flavored, and delicious, but can look kind of unappetizing, which is why we move to Phase 2. This involves a quicker sauté of the remaining onions in shallow batches to make sure you get a nice, brown, caramelized color and a more firm texture. Kind of looks like this when you’re done:
As you can see, I don’t believe in whimping out when it comes to onions. This is an onion soup after all, so let’s go all in. This is one of those ‘make it yours’ recipes, so if you like more broth, go for it. If you like less – I’m not stopping you. My version has a combination of chicken and mushroom broth, but feel free to substitute what you like best. And since onions love thyme, you’ll see some green flecks of thyme in there also.
At this point, give it a taste and see what you think…I’m guessing it will need some oomph to balance the sweetness of the onions, so I opted for a fig balsamic vinegar. You could also try some wine if you want, or if you like it as is, nothing else needs adding.
One classic addition of French Onion Soup would be crusty bread with a whole bunch of melted cheese on top. I am not a big fan of the traditional way of serving in that fashion, which includes a bubbling cauldron of soup arriving in front of you covered in a ton of blistering hot melted cheese that you practically end up wearing before you can get down to business. Here’s an alternative: Get some good, crusty bread, butter generously (of course), and set it under the broiler until the edges are brown and crispy. Warning: Do not look away at this point. I did so while testing this recipe and set the bread on fire – yep, really.
Next, add a nice, gooey cheese of your choice and back under the broiler until it melts and gets all bubbly. Again…do not look away. I did not learn from my earlier mistake and once again sot the bread on fire the first time this was attempted. Dunk that cheesy bread into the soup and let it soak up that delicious broth. Dig in.
I have also been known to sprinkle a little more cheese on top. It is National Soup Month after all, so let’s not be shy about these things…
Hope you enjoy this one! Thanks so much for reading today. xoxoxox
- FOR THE SOUP
- 6 large white onions, peeled, halved and sliced into ¼ inch pieces
- Approximately 2 tablespoons olive or neutral cooking oil of your choice
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 cans chicken broth
- Approximately 16 ounces mushroom broth
- 1-2 tablespoons fig balsamic vinegar (or any other dark balsamic vinegar)
- Approximately 2-3 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
- Approximately 1 cup white wine (optional)
- FOR THE TOPPING
- 1 loaf ciabatta or other type of artisan bread
- Enough butter to butter the bread
- Approximately 1-½ cups shredded Jarlsberg cheese (or any other good melting cheese that you really like)
- FOR THE SOUP
- In a heavy Dutch oven or soup pot, heat half of the oil over medium high heat until it shimmers.
- Add approximately ⅔ of the onions, the salt and pepper, and reduce heat to medium.
- Cook until onions are softened and cooked through. Feel free to put a lid on the pan that is tipped to one side to let steam escape. Do not walk away for a long period of time, but check back every few minutes. Stir everything around and if you see any dark spots showing up on the bottom of the pan, pour some of the wine in and scrape the bottom of the pan so the browned parts come up. Not to worry – they taste delicious and will add a lot of flavor to the onions. When the onions are cooked through and softened, they may be a nice, light brown color. On the other hand, they may also look more on the gray side, but don’t worry about that at this point – we will fix it.
- Remove the cooked onions and set aside.
- Add remaining oil to the pan, set the heat to medium high, and add the remaining onions in batches so that onions are only one layer deep in the pan. Add salt and pepper, and cook until brown and caramelized. Keep repeating until you have cooked all of the remaining onions this way.
- Add these newly sautéed onions to your first batch and set aside for a minute.
- In the same soup pan, add two cans of chicken broth, and then pour all of the onions into the pot.
- Add the mushroom broth, and dried thyme, and check for volume. Not enough broth? Add more. Too much broth? Don’t worry, it will cook down before all is said and done. This is one of those parts of the recipe where the driving is up to you….some people like a lot of broth and some not so much, so take the wheel and do what looks best to you.
- Let the soup cook over medium low heat until all of those flavors get a chance to get in tune with each other, and give you soup a taste. Chances are it will need a little acid boost. At this point, drizzle in some balsamic vinegar and taste again. Taste OK? If not, keep adding until your salt, acid, and sweet flavor of those onions balance out to your liking. The dark balsamic vinegar will also help to darken the soup if it looks too light for your taste. When you’ve got the soup to where you want it, it’s time to get the topping going.
- FOR THE TOPPING
- Slice and butter as much of the loaf of ciabatta that you think you’ll need (um…butter a few more slices than you think due to the fact that it tastes so good and also due to the fact that while testing this recipe I set a couple of pieces of bread on fire in the oven – no kidding).
- Preheat your oven broiler, and place the buttered bread on a cookie sheet.
- Slide the cookie sheet under the broiler and toast until the edges of the bread are browned and crispy. Do not look away – remember….fire hazard.
- Remove the browned toasts from the oven and sprinkle on as much cheese as you want. Slide the bread back under the broiler and again – do not look away…broil until cheese is melted and bubbly.
- TO SERVE
- Ladle soup into bowls and dip a slice of cheesy bread into the side of the bowl.
- Drizzle with a tad bit more balsamic vinegar if you like.
- All that’s left now is the eating. Enjoy!!